COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As Gov. Henry McMaster opened up vaccine eligibility to anyone ages 65 and up, teachers across the state are still asking when it’ll be their turn.
“Unethical, immoral, and absolutely unacceptable.” That’s how McMaster described the idea of prioritizing South Carolina teachers for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Educators who are actually still in the classroom say they’re just asking to work safely.
“There is no reason to be talking about teachers being greedy for wanting to be vaccinated,” Steve Nuzum said. “We mainly want to be vaccinated so we don’t get kids sick, and we don’t want to get each other sick, and we don’t want to take it back into the communities.”
Nuzum teaches high school English in a hybrid learning model, meaning his job still requires him to be in the building. As he waits his turn along with other educators, he’s wondering what’s really being done to protect teachers.
For months, the governor has pushed for five day face-to-face learning, and now he’s doubling down when it comes to not moving teachers up in line to get vaccinated.
“If you want schools to be open, and you want bars to be open, and you want restaurants to be open, and you don’t want to have a mask mandate, and you don’t want to ramp up vaccinations,” Nuzum said, “I don’t know what’s left.”
Nuzum says he’s actually reached out to both State Superintendent Molly Spearman and McMaster, asking them to visit his classroom.
He thinks they should speak with students and get a feel for what it’s like teaching and learning during the pandemic. He says neither has taken him up on the offer.
“The message that my students got was, ‘There isn’t anybody on the other side of that letter. Nobody is listening to you. No one cares about your concerns,’” he said. “I think that a lot of the statements they’ve made would be very easy to clear up if they were actually in a physical classroom with students.”
Nuzum says many of his co-workers don’t fall into the 65 and up category, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t at risk. Either way, they still have to be in place when the bell rings.
“There are people who are undergoing cancer treatment who are showing up for class, there are lots of people I know who have diabetes,” he said. “The legislature didn’t meet for months, even though that’s their job, because it wasn’t safe. We asked to work in safe conditions, and we’re being told again and again, ‘No.’”
Nuzum says he did receive a response from the offices of McMaster and Spearman when he invited them to his classroom but says, after that, visits were never scheduled.